Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bad Girl

           When I was thirteen I began to suffer from bouts of terrible stomach pain and nausea.  Because these episodes came and went, it was hard to figure out what was going on.  One day I would be fine, the next doubled over the toilet, willing myself to throw up.  After several doctors visits and tests it was concluded that I had stress-induced gastritis. Basically, I was unintentionally making myself sick. My mom took me to quite a few therapists but they all struck me as pandering and the whole act of confession felt somehow self indulgent. I would often point out that comparatively, so many people had it so much worse.  In all those visits I don't think I ever voiced how satisfied I felt in my discomfort.  How it felt earned.

           I went to school every day,  went to church every Sunday and said my prayers every morning and night.   I tried to do the right things, but even then I felt the facade slip sometimes.  It's hard to articulate, but I felt that I was, intrinsically, bad.  And when I say "bad" I don't mean it in the sort of sexy, smokey eye, sneak a smoke behind the gym kind of way.  I mean genuinely not good.  Poor quality. Not deserving of good things or worthy of good company.   When something bad happens to me I'm never surprised or offended.  I get it. I accept that I somehow deserve it.  And when things are really good, it's worse. The heavy tension of waiting for the bottom to drop out.

           When life is good I become so painfully anxious that any pleasure I might get from the good is ruined by the fact that I can see the threads holding up my happiness and THEY ARE SO THIN.   For a long time, I would cut them myself just to release the pressure. I would self-medicate to avoid worrying about how tenuous it all felt.  Ultimately, I just got used to it. I learned the signs that heralded bad episodes and I taught myself some tricks to keep them at bay. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

             Recently I was getting ready to leave for work, feeling really antsy.  Very irritable.  I walked outside and everything felt wrong somehow.  I don't remember where I heard it referred to as "the curious dreads" but I cannot think of a better description for this particular feeling.  It's one I recognize right away and immediately go to work trying to shake it off.  I did my regular routine to check that everything was off and locked and in its place and then walked out to the car.  I got in, but suddenly couldn't remember if I had turned off the oven.  I knew I hadn't even turned it on that morning, but also, on some level, didn't know. I went back inside.  It was off.  I walked back out to my car.  This time I didn't even get to it before I started to suspect that after checking that it was off, I had turned it back on again.  That would be nuts, though.  Why would I do that?  But maybe I did?  I went back. This time I said, "OFF" out loud.  A lot. Sometimes that helps.  This time it didn't. I tried to leave, but again, couldn't. This went on for about ten minutes.  I started to cry out of sheer frustration.  I tried to FaceTime my husband.  Maybe if he could see that the oven was off then I could finally leave.  He didn't answer.
              This wasn't a super-rare occurrence, but a rough one  for me, in part because the more manic I get about something, the deeper the subsequent period of depression I'll fall into becomes. So I was waiting for my husband to call back, which was humiliating because I realized how ridiculous it all sounded.  If I could snap out of it soon enough, I might not even tell him.  Why burden him any more than I needed to? His life would be so much easier without me wildly swinging from one extreme to another. (Like my life wouldn't?) I was still suspiciously watching a cold oven when I realized that I felt bad for myself. I felt empathetic, as though I was outside looking in on this weird, sad sight. It didn't feel like something I deserved.  It didn't feel like something anyone deserved.

               That was the day I called a psychologist, who referred me to a psychiatrist.  At every session I have to fight my natural urge to be a cynical, sarcastic monster, which is hard. I have to fight my tendency towards secrecy and try not to lie about uncomfortable truths. I can't sugarcoat, or fake the fun, which is a shame because I'm so good at it. In the end I'm not hoping for much. I would love to be able to feel happiness without having it snuffed out by the fear that it will inevitably be snuffed out. Does that make sense?  I'd like to feel content, without an undercurrent of dread.   That would be nice.